Tuesday, March 12

Governor’s first ‘State of the State’ is buzz of Capitol Hill (Cleveland Daily Banner) While Tennessee legislators returned their sights to the work of the people, much of the buzz last week on Capitol Hill revolved around Gov. Bill Lee’s inaugural “State of the State” address. In their legislative summary submitted to the Cleveland Daily Banner, two members of Bradley County’s lawmaking delegation gave Lee’s remarks, and the tone of his message, a thumbs up in all categories. “The governor presented his budget priorities, which emphasized continued improvements in Tennessee’s education system, overhauling our criminal justice system, and improving access and the quality of healthcare available to Tennesseans,” said state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) who represents the 22nd Legislative District. LINK

TN Gov. Bill Lee Wants To Increase TBI Staff Fighting Medicaid/TennCare Fraud (WKRN-TV) Governor Bill Lee proposes a big increase in the number of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation staffers fighting Medicaid fraud. State capitol newsroom reporter Chris Bundgaard looks at the proposal that came before Tennessee House budget hearings Monday. These hearings in the House come just a week after Governor Lee proposed his budget for the next fiscal year. The TBI director hopes lawmakers approve a request for 26-more staffers in the agency’s Medicaid fraud control unit. The group looks for wrongdoing in the state’s huge $12-billion Medicaid program TennCare, that takes up about 30% of the state budget, but the federal government warns states to help be watchdogs. LINK

Local Responses to State of State (Weakley Co. Press) When Gov. Bill Lee delivered his State of the State address last week, he focused on education, criminal justice and health care. The Press reached out to area leaders in these fields to offer a county perspective on key points. Lee began his remarks with a challenge to deliver “world class education” that aligns with the “needs of the job creators of today and tomorrow.” To accomplish that, he said students need more guidance, teachers and principals need more support, and parents need more choices. LINK

Tennessee Health Commissioner focused on health care costs, improving children’s health (Jackson Sun) Dr. Lisa Piercey has been on the job as the Tennessee Health Commissioner for less than two months but she already knows what she wants to focus on. “The opioid epidemic and the big four,” Piercey said, “Physical inactivity, excessive caloric intake, tobacco abuse and substance issues. Those are the drivers of early death and a lot of the excess cost in Tennessee. The governor and I have talked about how to address this issue in order to take some cost out of the health care system.” Piercey spoke to The Jackson Sun after she was honored by the Greater Gibson County Chamber of Commerce in her hometown of Trenton on Thursday. LINK

McPhee displays how Gov. Lee’s 2019-20 proposed budget impacts MTSU (MTSU Sidelines) On Monday, March 4, Gov. Bill Lee presented his State of the State address, in which he outlined his priorities for his time in office and the proposed 2019-20 budget. Following the speech, MTSU President Sidney McPhee released an analysis of the budget in regards to how Lee’s initiatives will impact the university. In McPhee’s email that included the analysis, he first mentioned a $3.8 million increase in net operating appropriations for MTSU if Lee’s budget is approved. LINK

What you need to know about Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to create education savings accounts in Tennessee (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to create a Tennessee education savings account program will surely be one of the most controversial proposals of his first year. Teachers, school boards and superintendents have strongly resisted similar programs. And school vouchers have divided the Tennessee General Assembly, with a Republican-dominated House only coming close to passing a bill once. But what are school vouchers, how are they different from education savings accounts, and why are they so controversial? LINK

Here’s what Chalkbeat readers are asking about Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher proposal (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to champion one of Tennessee’s most controversial education options comes as the state already faces significant challenges and lawsuits related to school funding. The Republican governor wants to offer education savings accounts, a form of vouchers that give families taxpayer money to pay for private education services such as tuition, tutoring, or online courses. The proposal — which would start with 5,000 students from districts with low-performing schools —  already has raised numerous concerns that we have reported on during more than a decade of legislative battles over similar ideas. And more questions emerge every day as Tennessee awaits details from new voucher legislation that’s expected to be filed as early as this week. LINK

Local and state law enforcement discuss Gov. Lee’s $30 million proposal for school safety (Daily Memphian) Students had barely filed into the auditorium at Kate Bond Middle School when Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Stephens’ radio came to life. “Deputy Stephens needed in the auditorium,” the voice on the loud speaker squawked. With 30 pounds of gear on his safety belt, Stephens sprinted toward the auditorium. He was met by a student who immediately declared his innocence over allegations of unruly behavior that included cursing the assistant principal. Looking the preteen boy in the eye, Stephens asked what was his first class of the day and then gave him a personal escort, all the while talking quietly to the young man about his actions. LINK

State raises reimbursement rates for child care (WSMV-TV) The struggle to find affordable daycare is real and overwhelming, but Tennessee is taking steps to improve access for parents. Beginning next month, the state will raise reimbursement rates for all providers who take part in the child care certificate program. It helps provide care for families who might struggle to afford it otherwise. Currently about 1,500 providers participate, but 4,200 are eligible. The Tennessee Department of Human Services hopes by raising the rates, more providers will join the program. LINK

State will increase funding for child care assistance program (WTVF-TV) The state Department of Human Services announced Monday it will increase the amount of money child care assistance providers receive for the first time in 10 years. It’s been 11 years but parents will now see a healthy boost to their reimbursement rate. For people who are participating in the Child Care Certificate Program, TDHS hopes this will get more providers to join in on the program. LINK

Tenn. to bump child care reimbursements (WVLT-TV) The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) announced that major changes in childcare agencies will help families pay for childcare. According to TDHS, the department’s Child Care Certificate Program will raise the weekly reimbursement rates for recipients for the first time since 2008, beginning in April. TDHS reported that this reimbursement will provide recipients with a 35 percent increase in weekly rates for infants and toddler care and a 20 percent increase in weekly rates for pre-school and school age care. LINK

What we know (and what we don’t) about Memphis’ contaminated groundwater (Commercial Appeal) Memphians like to laud their municipal water supply as one of the best in the country. It comes from a massive underground lake called the Memphis Sand aquifer. Water from the Memphis aquifer is so pure that little treatment is needed before it’s ready to pour from the tap. Recently, environmental groups have raised the alarm about new groundwater monitoring reports from a South Memphis power plant that, they say, show some disturbing signs. Here’s what we know and what we don’t know about recent testing of Memphis water. LINK

Buoyed by successful strikes in other states, new Tennessee teacher group readies for a fight (Tennessean) A new group aims to unify Tennessee teachers in advocating for public education, following a blueprint that led to teacher strikes that rocked states like Arizona, Kentucky and West Virginia. The three founders of TN Teachers United, who are current and former teachers union leaders, say their state affiliate, the Tennessee Education Association, is not fighting hard enough for educators. They plan to circumvent the state teachers union’s leadership to advocate for increased funding and less testing in schools, while bringing more teachers who don’t belong to unions into the process. LINK

ETSU resident physician among 157 victims killed in Ethiopian jetliner crash (WJHL-TV) An East Tennessee State University medical resident was among the 157 people from 35 countries who died Sunday morning when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner crashed. Officials at ETSU identified the resident as Dr. Manisha Nukavarapu. We’re told she was a second-year internal medicine resident at ETSU Quillen College of Medicine. Dr. Nukavarapu was reportedly on her way home to visit family. LINK

ETSU med student among those killed in plane crash; members of campus community mourn (Johnson City Press) An East Tennessee State University medical resident was among 157 people who died Sunday morning when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 jetliner crashed just after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Kenya. Dr. Manisha Nukavarapu, a second-year internal medicine resident and a graduate of Guntur Medical College in Guntur, India, was reportedly on her way to visit her parents in Nairobi. A press release from ETSU described her as “a fine resident, a delightful person and dedicated physician.” LINK

Tennessee State Parks offering free guided hikes at the end of March (WTVF-TV) Tennessee is home to 56 state parks and on Saturday, March 23, rangers will be hosting free guided spring hikes in all of them. With warm weather on the way, hikes are a great way for tourists and locals alike to see early spring wildflowers, discuss wildlife, take photos of beautiful scenery, and take in the features that separate each park from the next. LINK

Put the phone down! Tennessee is the worst state for cell phone distracted driving deaths, study says (WBIR-TV) Tennessee is the worst state for cell phone distracted driving deaths, according to a study by ValuePenguin. The group examined data from the National Highway Traffic Administration and found that, from 2015 to 2017, more than 1,400 fatalities were attributed to car crashes involving drivers that were distracted by their cellphones. “Our study found that Tennessee, Delaware, Wyoming, Texas and Montana—the five worst states for distracted driving—were responsible for 31% of all distracted driving deaths for this time period,” according to the website. LINK

AGs Urge End of Robocalls (Memphis Flyer) More than 48 billion robocalls were made last year and Attorneys General from across the country urged the U.S. Senate last week to help stop them. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery joined 54 other Attorneys General in a letter urging lawmakers to enact the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The legislation would curb illegal robocalls and phone spoofing, in which consumers are tricked into answering calls because the incoming number appears to be local. LINK

During House Speaker’s speech in Chattanooga, protester questions Confederate bust (WTVC-TV) Tennessee’s House Speaker was interrupted by protests during his speech for the Pachyderm Club in Chattanooga Monday. During a Q & A, a woman interrupted to ask House Speaker Glen Casada why a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest is still up at the state capitol. Forrest was a Confederate general. House Speaker Casada stopped the ushers, and answered the woman’s question. “The legislature discussed addressing it in a proper context. He was a slave trader, he recognized his sin, he repented and he’s seeking forgiveness,” he said. Ushers say the woman was not a member of the Pachyderm Club, and she was escorted out of the building. LINK

Bill would remove restrictions on how state uses TennCare money (WTVF-TV) A proposed changed to Tennessee’s Medicaid program known as TennCare has some healthcare advocates worried thousands of the state’s most vulnerable residents could use their health insurance. Under the plan, Tennessee would convert to a Block Grant program for federal reimbursement for TennCare funds. Every year the state gets reimbursement for two thirds of TennCare costs. Last year, the state got $7.2 billion from the federal government to help subsidize the program which gives healthcare coverage to the elderly, poor and children with disabilities. LINK

​​​​​​​TN Bill Seeks Permanent Daylight Saving Time; Supporters Say It’s Good For Health (WATN-TV) The first Monday of Daylight Saving Time may have had you running a little slower, but what if this was the last time for us to “spring forward?” A bill before state lawmakers this week would make Daylight Saving Time permanent in Tennessee, and the idea is picking up momentum. Florida was first to approve the idea, and all it needs is federal approval. Could Tennessee be next? Research suggests extending Daylight Saving Time could be good for our health, and apparently the President agrees. Sunday, a tweet from President Trump adding his stamp of approval saying: “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!” LINK

Tennessee bill that would cut hours of training, fee for gun carry permit stalls as proponents analyze costs to state (Times Free Press) A controversial bill that seeks to slash current training requirements as well as costs for many Tennesseans who want state-issued handgun-carry permits has been sidelined for now as proponents try to address impacts on state government finances. House Finance Subcommittee Chairman Andy Holt, R-Dresden, last week put the bill “behind the budget,” meaning it won’t proceed any further until the measure’s estimated revenue losses to the state are whittled down or other funding provided. “We have other issues to address with regard to its finances,” Holt told members of the panel he leads. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 43: A controversial abortion bill, pay raises and a chat with a medical marijuana supporter (Tennessean) One the most controversial bills of the 2019 legislative session was approved in the House last week. Commonly referred to as the fetal heartbeat bill, House lawmakers approved a bill that would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected. The measure, which has no exceptions — including to allow abortions in the case of incest and rape — generated the most significant floor discussion this year. Ultimately, the chamber passed the bill with a 65-21 vote. This week, we discuss the legislation, the floor debate and where it stands in the Senate, which has yet to taken up the proposal. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers upset as accused sexual abuser gets committee chairmanship (WZTV-TV) Representative David Byrd has maintained his innocence over the past year since three women accused him of sexually assaulting them. Despite those alleged assaults having occurred in a school, Byrd now chairs an education subcommittee in the Tennessee Legislature. The new House Speaker’s decision to give Byrd that chairmainship is alarming some of his peers. “It’s not even rubbing it in the face,” Representative Gloria Johnson said. “I’m a 27 year teacher. It is horrific to me.” LINK

Kelsey proposing increases in Senate campaign fundraising (Daily Memphian) Legislation by state Sen. Brian Kelsey that could dramatically increase Senate candidate fundraising could be heard in a committee this week. “It’s for parity between the House and the Senate,” Kelsey said recently, adding he believes both chambers are ready for a change. A Germantown Republican who also represents East Memphis, Kelsey introduced his legislation recently with a handwritten amendment that rewrote the bill during a State and Local Government Committee meeting. Kelsey told committee members the amendment “was basically doubling” campaign contribution limits on the Senate side to mirror House campaign contribution limits. LINK

Howell’s House Bill 951 heads for House floor vote (Cleveland Daily Banner) Part of Gov. Bill Lee’s legislative package, a move to deregulate the required state licensing of certain caregivers, is headed for a vote on the House of Representatives floor on Thursday. Shepherding House Bill 951 is state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) who was asked to spearhead the legislation on the governor’s behalf by House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Assistant Majority Leader Ron Gant (R-Rossville). Under Howell’s stewardship, the proposed legislation advanced first through the House Mental Health & Substance Abuse Subcommittee, and early last week it earned the unanimous endorsement of the full House Health Committee. LINK

Lawmaker files series of bills so Tennessee will be ‘last place illegal aliens want to go’ (WZTV-TV) A Tennessee representative has filed a series of bills aimed at decreasing illegal immigration to Tennessee and addressing the issue of illegal aliens already living and working in the Volunteer State. Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) is proposing the legislation to curb what he said is a major problem in Tennessee and beyond. “I want to make Tennessee be the very last place that illegal aliens want to come and all of bills seek to do just that,” Griffey said. “In addition, everyone should have to obey the laws equally. It is a fundamental principle and value in America.” LINK

Tennessee bill proposes no smoking on or near playgrounds (WATE-TV) Communities across our region are looking to opt into a bill that will prohibit people from smoking near, or at, playgrounds. The bill is currently making its way through committees in the Tennessee legislature. As currently written, the bill authorizes Knox County and Knoxville to prohibit smoking on the grounds of any playground owned by a local government. This is an “opt-in” bill where other cities can request to join. Carter, Johnson, Washington, and Sullivan counties have requested local leaders to join the bill and that list is expected to grow. LINK

Republicans back tobacco, vaping age of 21 (Daily Memphian) Republican lawmakers say they can improve the state’s health by raising the age of vaping and buying tobacco products to 21. “We can do better and we must do better as a state, and we will. And this piece of legislation is a great step in the right direction to get our smoking under control and, in turn, get ourselves healthy physically as well as financially in the state,” said state Sen. Shane Reeves, a Murfreesboro Republican. Reeves and several Republican legislators introduced SB1200 and HB 1454 by Rep. Bob Ramsey of Maryville in a Monday press conference, saying they believe upping the age will make it harder for kids to get hooked on tobacco and vaping. LINK

Shelby lawmakers leery of governor’s education savings accounts plan (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee says this is the year to pass his “school choice” plan, putting $25.4 million in his budget plan to pay local systems if they lose students. But some Shelby County legislators are not exactly enthused with his idea to give students public money to attend private schools or homeschool, even if the state reimburses school districts for students who go elsewhere. State Rep. Kevin Vaughan, a Collierville Republican who serves on Collierville’s school board, says he will have plenty of questions about the legislation when it surfaces in the General Assembly. LINK

State Senate District 32 voters go to polls Tuesday (Daily Memphian) Voters in eastern Shelby County and Tipton County go to the polls on Tuesday, March 12, to decide the first contested general election race for state Senate District 32 in 15 years. Republican nominee Paul Rose of Tipton County and Democratic nominee Eric Coleman of Shelby County are the contenders for the seat held for 16 years by Collierville Republican Mark Norris. In that time, Norris became the Senate Republican leader and carried the legislation of the Republican governor. The special election was called by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam following Norris’ resignation to become a federal court judge. LINK

Former state GOP chairman calling for a ‘big tent’ (Johnson City Press) As a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Chip Saltsman can remember a time when the GOP was still working to grow its party’s brand in state politics. That was 1998, and Saltsman said his party has since gained a supermajority in the state General Assembly, elected back-to-back Republicans to the governor’s office and now holds seven of the state’s districts in the U.S. House, as well as both Tennessee’s seats in the U.S. Senate. “We now have complete control over politics in the state of Tennessee, and that has made all the difference,” Saltsman, who has also served as presidential campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008 and as a commentator for Fox News and MSNBC, told members of the East Tennessee Republican Club on Monday. LINK

Former TN GOP chairman wants Haslam to run for Senate (WJHL-TV) The former head of the Tennessee Republican Party wants former Governor Bill Haslam to run for U.S. Senate. Chip Saltsman spoke Monday at a meeting of the East Tennessee Republican Club in Johnson City. Saltsman told News Channel 11 that if Haslam runs for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Lamar Alexander, the former governor would have his full support. “The state would be very lucky if Governor Haslam decided to run for the Senate,” Saltsman said. “I would be 100% supportive of that. I think he would win. I think he would serve the state great just like he did as eight years as governor.” LINK

Club for Growth launches website targeting Haslam (TN Journal) The Club for Growth, a conservative Super PAC, is taking aim at former Gov. Bill Haslam’s potential candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The Knoxville Republican is expected to make a decision about whether to run this spring. The group has expressed support for U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) to jump into the race to succeed Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) next year. Club for Growth agitated on Republican Marsha Blackburn’s behalf in her successful bid for the Senate last year. LINK

Conservative group attacking former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam as he again mulls Senate bid (AP) A national conservative group is attacking former Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam as he considers running for another open U.S. Senate seat. The Club for Growth has launched a website and a 60-second web ad mostly targeting the popular two-term governor over the federal investigation into a diesel rebate scam at his family’s truck stop chain, Pilot Flying J. The Haslams haven’t been charged with wrongdoing in the investigation, which has spurred more than a dozen convictions at Pilot. LINK

Conservative group attacks Bill Haslam as he considers Senate run (Tennessean) A national conservative group is attacking former Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam as he considers running for another open U.S. Senate seat. The Club for Growth has launched a website and a 60-second web ad mostly targeting the popular two-term governor over the federal investigation into a diesel rebate scam at his family’s truck stop chain, Pilot Flying J. The Haslams haven’t been charged with wrongdoing in the investigation, which has spurred more than a dozen convictions at Pilot. LINK

State policy organization adds staff, directors (Nashville Post) The Sycamore Institute, a two-year-old Tennessee-focused think tank, has added to its staff and board of directors. Seb Rougemont is joining the group as operations and engagement coordinator. He previously worked for the Nevada Republican Party during the 2018 election cycle and for the Florida Republican Party during the 2016 election cycle. The Sycamore Institute added two board members: Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway and Pamela Carter, a former Cummins Inc. executive and Democratic Indiana attorney general. Christi Branscom of Knoxville was set to join the board but stepped down when Gov. Bill Lee appointed her commissioner of the Department of General Services. LINK

Will Nashville’s economy keep booming? Here’s what a notable group of entrepreneurs thinks. (Nashville Business Journal) “Amazon and Alliance Bernstein. What else can you say?” That’s what one member of the Nashville chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization said when asked why local entrepreneurs are optimistic Music City will continue to grow in 2019. In fact, 50 percent of local entrepreneurs believe Middle Tennessee’s economy will improve over the next year, according to a survey conducted by EO Nashville. Forty-seven percent of respondents think the region’s economy will stay the same, while 3 percent think the economy will worsen, according to the survey results. LINK

Lauderdale County leaders lay out plan to rescue struggling hospital (WMC-TV) Monday officials in Lauderdale County laid out their plan to save their struggling, rural hospital with the group saying a buyer has been found as the hospital will go through a bankruptcy filing. “We worry every day that it may not be open the next day,” said Maurice Gaines, Lauderdale County mayor. Staff members at Lauderdale Community Hospital tell WMC Action News 5 that the emergency room has been closed for weeks as issues with delayed pay and no doctors persist. Monday, the parking lot was empty and a tree was down in front of the building while rehab patients were wheeled in through a side door. LINK

Florida Lab Company Buys A Third Struggling Tennessee Hospital (WPLN Radio) A Florida-based firm sees opportunity in some of Tennessee’s struggling rural hospitals. RennovaHealth has bought a third facility on the upper Cumberland Plateau. First it scooped up the 25-bed Oneida hospital out of bankruptcy and renamed it Big South Fork Medical Center. Then last year, Rennova purchased the hospital in Jamestown. Last week, the company closed its deal to acquire  the 54-bed Jellico Community Hospital. All of the 147 employees were laid off at the end of the month, according to mandatory reporting to the Tennessee Department of Labor. But a Rennova spokesman says they are being rehired under the new management. LINK

Kim Kardashian-West to help Tennessee man Matthew Charles, freed with help from President Trump, pay for housing in Nashville (Tennessean) Just three days after he revealed he could not find housing in Nashville, Matthew Charles learned he would not have to worry about paying rent for the next five years — all thanks to Kim Kardashian-West.  “Now, all… I have to do is find the place,” Charles said Monday night. Charles was released from prison Jan. 3 under a new law known as the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform law signed by President Donald Trump in December. The law allows judges to retroactively apply the drug sentencing reforms of the Fair Sentencing Act. Matthew Charles is recognized by President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address. LINK

Nashville ranks near bottom in 100 best places to live (Nashville Business Journal) There aren’t many lists that Nashville hasn’t been near the top of in recent years — from the best places to start a business to the top cities for blockchain jobs — but when is comes to quality of life, Music City may not be as homey as you think, according to a new study. Livability.com released its annual list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live last week, and Nashville came in at No. 84, one spot below Wilmington, Delaware.  Boise, Idaho, topped the 2019 ranking, followed by Raleigh, North Carolina, and Madison, Wisconsin. LINK

ALABAMA: Alabama gas tax proposal continues on legislative fast track (AP) An Alabama Senate committee approved a proposed 10-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase Monday, keeping the bill on the legislative fast track in the special session called by Gov. Kay Ivey. The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee approved the proposed gas tax increase and related bills without a dissenting vote. The measures now move to the full Senate floor, where they could receive final passage as soon as Tuesday. LINK

CALIFORNIA: California’s Universal Health Care Goals Are On Paper. Here Are 21 Bills To Keep An Eye On (Capital Public Radio) Patient advocates and a handful of lawmakers rallied on the steps of the Capitol last week to push a universal health care agenda they hope will bring the state closer to getting everyone insured. Democratic Sen. Richard Pan says it all comes down to cost. “We can’t tell people ‘you have to have insurance’, but not make it affordable,” he said. “There’s been tremendous work done in the legislature to try to see what we can do about affordability. We’re going to be sure that we continue to push that forward this year.” LINK

KENTUCKY: Governor signs permitless conceal carry bill into law (WYMT-TV) Governor Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 150 into law Monday. The bill allows law-abiding gun owners to conceal carry without a permit within Kentucky. The state already allowed gun owners to carry openly. Those wanting to conceal out-of-state will still need to get a conceal carry permit. “On behalf of the NRA’s five million members, we would like to thank Governor Bevin for his leadership on this critical issue,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “This law is a common-sense measure that allows law-abiding citizens to exercise their fundamental right of self-protection in the manner that best suits their needs.” LINK

NEW JERSEY: The 10 biggest winners in N.J.’s school funding shakeup (NJ.com) Sometimes you have to lose before you can win. Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed 2020 budget calls for spending $206 million more on direct aid to public schools, and it reallocates another $90 million from districts considered overfunded by the state to districts that have long suffered from underfunding. The result? Districts shortchanged for the better part of a decade are finally catching up on state funding they’ve been owed. Statewide, Murphy’s proposed budget would give nearly 370 districts an increase in funding, while almost 200 would have their aid reduced. Only a dozen districts would see flat funding. LINK

NORTH DAKOTA: Revenue forecast predicts $1 billion in extra oil tax cash, but top Republicans appear wary (Bismark Tribune) The state’s top budget official told North Dakota lawmakers Monday they can expect $1 billion more in oil tax revenue by mid-2021 than they predicted early in the session. Office of Management Director Joe Morrissette presented the House and Senate appropriations committees with updated revenue projections that included rosier oil price and production figures than what lawmakers adopted in January. At the time, they used lower oil price figures than those projected by the executive branch and their own forecasters. LINK


State Rep. John Holsclaw: House Republicans applaud State of the State address (Elizabethton Star) This week, House Republicans gathered in the Capitol to hear Governor Bill Lee’s first State of the State Address. During his remarks, the Governor presented his budget priorities, which emphasized continued improvements in Tennessee’s education system, overhauling our criminal justice system, and improving access and the quality of healthcare available to Tennesseans, while lowering overall costs. House Republicans were pleased to see the Governor’s proposed budget includes a record-breaking deposit to the Rainy Day Fund that will lift the state savings account to an historic $1.1 billion. Additionally, the budget does not take on any long-term debt and manages to cut more than $40 million in costs without compromising the quality of services available to our citizens. LINK

State Sen. Joey Hensley: Inauguration of Governor Bill Lee (Lewis Herald) I have had the privilege of witnessing five inaugurations of three governors during my legislative tenure. Being present for these events gives you a great appreciation for the traditions and duties associated with election to the state’s highest office.   It is also a humbling experience as we are reminded of the trust placed in us by the people of Tennessee to work in concert with our state’s chief executive to improve the lives of approximately 6.7 million people who call the Volunteer State home. Governor Lee brings fresh ideas and a great sense of optimism as he ushers in a new era for our great state. LINK

Guest column: Putting school choice in parents’ hands helps neighborhoods. How it works. (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee has a unique opportunity to combine good education policy with effective economic development and environmental policy for low-income communities across the state. Public school assignment policies currently place heavy burdens on low-income neighborhoods. Since children are assigned to schools based on where they live, financially secure families leave areas with bad public schools and cluster in areas with good schools. For example, the most recent census shows that Williamson County has 34 percent more children ages 5-to-9 than should be expected given the number of preschool children. Next door, Davidson County has 16 percent fewer 5-to-9 year olds than we should expect. LINK

Bill Frist and David Mansouri: Tennessee’s education progress has slipped. Specific steps can turn it around. (Tennessean) A decade ago, the nonprofit State Collaborative for Reforming Education, or SCORE, began collaborating with Tennessee’s leaders, educators, and community and education advocates to make Tennessee one of the fastest-improving states in the nation. Children in Tennessee today have better opportunities for success in college and career than any Tennesseans in history, and we are proud of the state’s unprecedented progress in student achievement. But as SCORE enters its second decade of service and releases our newest State of Education in Tennessee report, we want to see our students climb higher and faster. LINK

Otis Sanford: On TN Fetal Heartbeat Bill (WATN-TV) Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on Tennessee’s Fetal Heartbeat bill. If members of the Tennessee State Senate are smart, they will do the opposite of what the state House did last week when it hastily passed the so-called fetal heartbeat bill. The Republican Controlled House refused to listen to sensible arguments that the bill has serious constitutional problems, and could jeopardize other anti-abortion measures currently in force in Tennessee, including a 48 hour waiting period. Even groups that have been pushing for years to restrict abortion in the state were opposed to the heartbeat bill. LINK

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe: H.R. 1 is not ‘for the people’ (Elizabethton Star) Our country is a representative democracy, founded on the principle that all are created equal and every vote counts the same. Americans have the power to choose who represents them in our government, and it should stay that way. Democrats’ top legislative agenda item, H.R. 1, the so-called “For the People Act,” should really be renamed the “For the Politicians Act” since it is not actually for the people at all. I believe Congress can find a bipartisan campaign reform that benefits the people; however, this legislation does not do that. This bill takes the power away from states to decide election rules; allows taxpayer dollars to fund campaigns; attacks Americans’ right to free speech; and weakens our election system. LINK

Guest column: Education savings accounts are just another voucher scheme ripe for abuse (Tennessean) Would you like your tax dollars being used to buy Mercedes Benz cars and abortions?  Would you like your taxes going up? Or your public schools going down?  Or both? For a decade, Tennessee legislators have repeatedly rejected radical school voucher plans to give away public dollars to private schools. Now billionaire-funded out-of-state interest groups have rebranded school vouchers as “educational savings accounts.”  ESAs are a way to put lipstick on a pig. ESAs are debit cards loaded with tax dollars intended to pay for private or home schooling or other educational services. LINK

Guest column: Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn can protect workers from toxic chemical that killed my son (News Sentinel) In April 2017, I lost my youngest son, Kevin, to a deadly chemical found in common paint stripping products. He was refinishing a bathtub for his uncle’s business and was overcome by methylene chloride fumes. The risks of methylene chloride are well known – the chemical is so dangerous that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed banning its use in paint strippers in early 2017, months before Kevin passed away. LINK

Guest column: 10 questions Nashville and Tennessee officials must answer about the Amazon deal (Tennessean) To our representatives: Whether we’ve been here for generations or just arrived, we want to live in a place that makes our families feel welcome and allows us to build the best possible lives. We need you to prioritize funding our schools and career training, ensure affordable housing and living wages, and support our small businesses so they can compete fairly. These are the investments that make our city and economy thrive. The lack of transparency and engagement around Amazon’s expansion in Nashville makes us concerned about the future for our families and communities. LINK





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s